Steven Holl Architects' latest cultural offering prepares to open this weekend in Biarritz
Due to open to the public on Sunday 26th June, the Cité de l’Océan et du Surf is a considered exploration of the surf and the sea by civic experts Steven Holl Architects. Rising up in a graceful concave exterior wall, the Museum’s textured concrete face looks to mirror the nearby swells of the Biarritz coastline on the Bay of Biscay. Inside, this curving form becomes an inverse convex arc which blends seamlessly into the ceiling of the main exhibition space. The intention is to project film exhibitions onto this bowed surface, animating the space onto a plane which ‘evokes the sense of being ‘under the sea’’.
Adjoining this curved surface are two ‘glass rocks’ which contain the restaurant and surfers’ kiosk, linking the interior facilities to an active outside plaza which has been paved with a progressive variation of Portuguese cobblestone paving, through which grasses and natural vegetation are able to protrude. An additional exterior space is afforded through an elevated outdoor terrace at the summit of the building, from which visitors can survey picturesque open views of the nearby waters.
The cupped edges of this public plaza present a perfect opportunity for skaters both professional and amateur to test their skills in a cultural and scenic setting, whilst the faultless integration of the Museum complex into the surrounding environment makes it a classic setting for festivals and social events. Steven Holl Architects furthers: “The gardens of the Cité de l’Océan et du Surf aim at a fusion of landscape and architecture, and connect the Museum to the ocean horizon. The precise integration of concept and topography gives the building its unique profile.”
In aiming to capture the essence of the spatial concept ‘under the sky / under the sea’, Steven Holl Architects have integrated aggregates from the South of France to produce the white textured concrete that forms the exterior walling and insulated glass units with clear and acid-etched layers to create a sense of transparency. The firm’s completed project is an abstract experiment in marine imagery, and offers a contemporary twist on the classic museum concept.